What's next, Bernie?

Democratic primary voters appeared to conclude that this really is a two-person race yesterday. They were given a choice between the self-avowed socialist and the guy who may have mistaken his wife for his sister during his victory speech. Looks like socialism wasn’t back on the menu after all, boys.

The narrative of this race changed so often and so quickly over the past week that it was enough to make your head spin. Up until South Carolina, Joe Biden looked dead in the water. Bernie was set to win the vast majority of Super Tuesday states, some by large margins. There was continual talk of Sanders waking up this morning with an insurmountable lead. So what happened? The Washington Free Beacon summed it up with a two-word title. Bernie Chokes.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) fell short of expectations on Super Tuesday, failing to prevent former vice president Joe Biden from fighting his way back into contention in the Democratic primary. Decisive victories in several key states, fueled by a series of coordinated endorsements from former rivals and party establishment figures, make it likely that Biden will mount a serious challenge to Sanders’s socialist insurgency.

Of course, to hear Bernie tell the story, you’d think he won in a clean sweep.

“Tonight, I tell you with absolute confidence, we’re going to win the Democratic nomination,” Sanders told a crowd of supporters in Vermont, before slamming Biden over his support for the Iraq war and cuts to Social Security.

Sanders also took a veiled swipe at Democratic Party leaders. “We’re taking on the corporate establishment, but also we’re taking on the political establishment,” he said.

Sanders wasn’t completely blown out, but he’ll have a lot of questions to answer today. As I wrote yesterday, he needed to hang on to both California and Texas if he wanted to keep this drive alive. But he somehow managed to lose a commanding lead in the Lone Star State and let Joe Biden sneak away with a narrow victory. Unfortunately for Bernie, he not only took fewer states than Biden last night, but the margins of victory were such that he’s doing even worse than some of the headlines would imply.

If you look at the final splits and delegate counts, California was really the only bright spot for Sanders. He held onto a solid lead and will take an estimated 65% of the delegates compared to Biden’s haul of barely 20%. But in the rest of the states where Bernie won, the news wasn’t nearly as good. In Colorado, Biden, Bloomberg and Warren combined to take 60% of the vote, leaving Bernie with the win, but a much smaller number of delegates. Sanders posted solid margins of victory in Utah and Vermont, but those states also send much smaller numbers of people to the convention.

By contrast, Biden ran up the score in states like Virginia (over 50%), Tennessee (41%), North Carolina (43%) and Alabama (63%!!). He’ll wind up with a large slice of the pie in some of the states with more delegates to offer. There will be some changes in the days and weeks to come, but at the moment we have these projections.

So instead of an “insurmountable lead” in the delegate race, Sanders appears to be dropping into second place. That’s hardly a reason to drop out because there are plenty of states left to vote. And against a candidate like Joe Biden, it’s still entirely possible he could shoot himself in the foot and open the door for a Bernie comeback. But at least for the moment, the Sanders “revolution” appears to have largely stalled.